A decade after Kevin Feige kicked of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, the multibillion dollar franchise finally has a feature film with a female lead. Unsurprisingly this has resulted a big reaction from some fans, both before and after seeing the film. In the last week Rotten Tomatoes changed their “Want to See” feature to stop people from review-bombing the film, some thing that also happened to the 2016 all female Ghostbusters reboot, and there was also a campaign for moviegoers to boycott the Brie Larson lead action flick and instead go see Alita: Battle Angle, to send a message to Disney. It’s clear that some just wanted to see the film fail from the start.
With that said though, it is possible for you to sit through the film and not be sexist or misogynist. The remarks that have been made about the film, which I’ll get to in a second, have some validity to them. They fall down though when these same complaints could of been mentioned in a fair few past Marvel films, but of course they wern’t, and that is my real problem. Whether the critiques are fair or not, I feel strongly that we are using a different measuring tape to judge this film, than we normally would.
Kicking off the first point made in most of the negative reviews, tweets, and comments, is the poor story. This is a point I can somewhat get around, as there were times during the film that I felt disengaged. With it now being the unnecessary norm that superhero films are running for two hours and beyond, Captain Marvel could of done with a few cuts to the final product to speed things up during the first act. There were also moments in the film that I was pretty confused about what was going on, and who everyone was. Both of those things, for myself personally, have been felt in previous MCU films, but I haven’t felt the massive uproar I have about it for these films. In Doctor Strange I was both confused and distracted at points, and during Ant-Man and the Wasp the third act’s action sequences dragged on. The one way I can excuse the confusing story line is our protagonist herself has no memory of her former life and is constantly being lied to by other characters throughout the film.
Now to acknowledge the next point that keeps on coming up, is that the film is bad because Brie Larson is a bad actress. Wait what?! You’re telling me that the Academy award winning actress Brie Larson isn’t worthy of pretending to be superhero? Now maybe I’m defensive over this point because I’m a fan of Larsen. I first watched her in Showtime’s United States of Tara, and since then have seen in 21 Jump Street, The Spectacular Now, and Room where, as I previously mentioned, won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2015. Despite what you think of her acting on screen, I’ve never heard of fans complain of casting before or after any other Marvel film. Maybe I don’t read enough film fan boards, but I just haven’t come across it. I even heard someone talk about how they felt Larson wasn’t right for the role despite never even reading one Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel comic. Heck I’d be shocked if they’ve ever read a comic before at all.
The hatred for Larson stems from a awards ceremony speech she made last year where she addressed the lack in diversity in film criticism. In reference to the negative reviews for Ava DuVernay’s A Winkle in Time, which suffered at the box office, she said, “Am I saying that I hate white dudes? No, I’m not. What I am saying is if you make a movie that is a love letter to a woman of color, there is an insanely low chance that a woman of color will have a chance to see your movie and review your movie. It really sucks that reviews matter, but reviews matter. We are expanding to make films that reflect the people who buy movie tickets . . . I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him.”
While on the press tour this year for Captain Marvel, her past comments were brought up, where she clarified what she was saying, stating that, “What I’m looking for is to bring more seats up to the table. No one is getting their chair taken away. There’s not less seats at the table, there’s just more seats at the table”
So is it fair to say that comments on her performance have less to do with her ability and more to do with what she has said that might have offended you? Maybe.
Lastly many haven’t liked the political and feminist stance the film took. Before I go into some examples of political themes in other Marvel films, I want to acknowledge that Captain Marvel was always going to be a feminist driven story. That is because the character has always being fighting for equality. Even more than that, the original comic was seen as socially progressive at the time, with its use of “Ms.” in its title instead of “Mrs” or “Miss”. So I’ll agree that if a Black Widow or Scarlett Witch film had overt feminist themes in it, then it might of been a bit strange, but this felt exactly right, especially for Marvel first ever female driven superhero film.
On top of that, political agenda’s, whether you want to admit it or not, have been present in other MCU films. Take for example casualties in military operations featured in Civil War, overpopulation in Infinity War, and the struggles of the unemployed in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Years ago Stan Lee himself faced these complaints in his comic books and his response is better than anything I’d be able to write. In Stan’s Soapbox he said: “From time to time we receive letters from readers who wonder why there’s so much moralizing in our mags. They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be more escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow I can’t see it that way. It seams to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all – old time fairy tales and heroic legends – contained moral and philosophical points of view. At every college campus where I speak, there’s as much discussion of war and peace, civil rights, and the so called youth rebellion as there is of our Marvel mags per se. None of us lives in a vacuum – none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us – events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist – but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it! Excelsior! Stan Lee”
At the end of the day the film will be seen as a success. Not that all films should be judged on the box office revenue it takes in, but in a case like this it was going to be pretty important. After it’s opening weekend it took in $153 million domestically and grossed $455 million worldwide.
Outside of the money it made, and outside of every thing that I’ve explained, the reality is, as Larson said with A Wrinkle in Time, maybe Captain Marvel wasn’t made for you. Instead it was made for the little girls like this one:
Who’s parents posted on reddit that they went straight to the Disney store after seeing the film to buy the latest superhero costume, that I’m sure many will be wearing for years to come.